Who’s house is that? We pushed the sofa away from the wall for a poetry book club a couple of weeks ago, and never pushed it back again. Furniture in the middle of the room … who knew? It makes for a cozy seating area with space for piano practice and the art table behind it. I still don’t have a decent location for the piano books, but someday. Someday.
I’m operating on a hopeful mission to sort out and tidy every drawer and surface in the house. And also to keep the bathrooms/kitchen clean. My strategy involves doing it when I see it needs doing. In practice that means I was cleaning out the bottom drawer of the fridge on Monday evening while unloading our Bailey’s food. The idea, borrowed from my friend Rebecca’s blog, is to ask: Do I have five minutes? Usually these minor cleaning tasks take only a few minutes. And I almost always have five minutes. I also found five minutes, which stretched to a few more, to scrub mold off the grout in the shower one evening last week. Just what one feels like doing after tucking the kids in, let me tell you, but that’s when I noticed the mold. Did I have five minutes? I did. We use baking soda and vinegar as cleaning agents, and as I scrubbed and scrubbed (using an old toothbrush) I found myself reminiscing about the Old Dutch cleanser my mom used to use, which would remove a layer of skin from your hands but sure got the tiles sparkling in a jiffy. Advice from fellow green-cleaners out there? Is the secret all in the elbow grease and the lowered standards?
If I’m talking a lot about the house, it’s because this has been a housebound week, high on domestic necessities. My girl is still sick. We will be heading to see the doctor shortly.
I don’t function well in housebound mode (and for the record, yes, my office is at home, but my office does not make me feel housebound). I don’t function well on interrupted sleep. I get grumpy. It’s fair to no one, but by 6pm, on a day when I’ve been doing nothing but scrubbing grout with a toothbrush, preparing meals, cleaning up from meals, entertaining sick children, worrying about sick children, and ferrying other children with sick child in tow to after-school activities — by 6pm I’m liable to bite someone’s head off. Usually my husband’s. Because by 6pm he’s around, that’s why. And he’s not a kid. Yup. Totally unfair.
I’ve been enjoying reading the latest issue of Brain, Child magazine, which has a piece on whether or not mothers complain too much about motherhood these days. Do we? Do I? Or should I really be complaining more? I wonder sometimes whether I get the balance right: truth-telling, accurate reporting of on-the-job realities mingled with gratitude. I do feel some discomfort about being a “mommy blogger” … about presenting my family’s life in some ideal package or inducing guilt in any other mother out there who doesn’t have time (or the interest) to make homemade food or who drives instead of making her kids walk to school or etc. I think we’re all trying our best. We have good intentions. We make mistakes. Life isn’t perfect. And “mother” might just be the most judged and criticized role any of us could have chosen to take on, but that didn’t stop us, so there’s bravery right there.
And I’m rambling.
And it’s time to go.
She slept in late after a restless night. She still has a fever, so I kept her home sick. But as soon as she got up, she saw the snow. She’s been playing outside for over an hour. I just peeked, and she’s working on turning the snow fort into a snowperson. Nope, make that snowpeople! “I made a snow angel, too.”
It is raining when it should be snowing this morning. I am wearing pajamas and listening to Christmas carols being played on the piano. That probably sounds more romantic than it actually is. Life often does in Blogland. But that’s another topic for another post.
Yesterday’s going to take some recovery time. But I don’t mind. Welcome to our recovery Sunday.
Yesterday was a long and well-coordinated day right up until our youngest daughter had a nosebleed while we were out at a restaurant. Suddenly it got a whole lot longer and slightly less coordinated. On the way to the hospital, Kevin reminded me to drive safely and I assured him it was fine because “I always tail-gate slow drivers.” (I was ever so slightly resenting how calm he remained — not that that’s a bad thing in such situations, but I kind of wished I weren’t the only one freaking out, if you know what I mean. It would have made me feel less like I was freaking out.) The good news is that her nose bleed had stopped by the time we got to emerg, and lest you think we’re alarmist parents, we sat at the pho restaurant for about 15 minutes waiting for it to slow, which seemed negligent, until the nurse at the hospital told me we could have waiting 45 minutes. Did you know that?? I mean, the nose was pouring. I hope you’re not eating. Luckily both grandmas were with us at the restaurant so Kev and I were able to depart quickly and together and know the other kids would be fed, and that the performer would get to her performance. Because yesterday was AppleApple’s Singer’s Theatre show. I’m sad to say her dad missed it altogether due to the medical crisis. I’d gotten to see the afternoon show, and it was so good. Those sweet sweet children. And my dancing daughter in her soccer head band. She’d come to the show straight from soccer (grilled cheese sandwiches eaten in the car on the way to the curtain call) and the head band stayed on. She was the only child on stage who looked like no one had bothered to brush her hair. No one had. It was beautifully brushed for the evening performance, which Kevin and I both missed, but thanks to quick planning and cellphones, both grandmas were able to attend.
And after all that, after a day that included a visit from the washer repairman, and two birthday parties, and bowling with Grandma Alice, and taking a cab (due to having only one vehicle), and two soccer games, and carpooling, and two performances, and a spot of Christmas shopping, and supper out, AND a trip to emerg, Kevin and I made it at last to the first holiday party of the year. Thank God for Grandmas. We were able to stay out as late as we wanted. And so we did. Ergo, today’s slow recovery.
I wore red high heels, borrowed from my sister Edna (come to think of it, she might not know I borrowed them from her … uh, thanks, Ed!).
There was a lot of dancing. It’s really the point of the party, which has become an annual tradition. This might be the fourth year we’ve gone …??? And every year it seems impossible that another year has passed and we’re back in this house crowded with friends, getting down. It’s kind of a good marker, the way birthdays are. You can remember yourself from year to year, note the changes. The first year we went I was nursing an eight-month-old. I was timid on the dance floor. Clearly timidity was a passing phase.
Not to get too philosophical, but dancing, oh, so good for the soul and the body. Every once in awhile you hit the perfect song, the perfect rhythm, there’s a mindless and perfect connection to the beat, and you’re just lost to the world. It’s a gift when it happens. If you feel like dancing, try this. And happy kick-off to the holidays, everyone.
Yesterday, after running errands and going to the library, CJ fell asleep on the couch listening to a CD he brought home from his grandma’s house when we visited over Thanksgiving. He picked it out based on its cover art: two shaggy Scottish cows. An artist I’ve never heard of. A bunch of cover songs. Grandma didn’t seem sad to see it go. I was upstairs hanging laundry while he was listening, and I heard him chiming in with the first song on the words “Just like a rhinestone cowboy!” Except he was singing “Just like a rockstar cowboy!”
Another funny misheard lyric: on Monday evening I was driving four girls to their theatre rehearsal — there is always singing from the back seat. One girl had just seen The Sound of Music, and at least one other girl knew all the words to all the songs too. So I was treated to “I am sixteen, going on seventeen.” The funny part was when one girl sang the line: “Fellows will fall in line,” as “Pillows will fall in line.”
I can just picture it.
What was I going to blog about today?
Somehow, I think there was another topic in mind when I began.
Oh yes. One boy sleeping on the couch yesterday afternoon = one mildly sick boy at home this morning — my rockstar cowboy. I pictured us spending the day doing fun activities together — crafts, puzzles, baking, reliving the days of yore. But instead he just wants to watch movies and lie on the couch, and I’ve had a nap and read the newspaper. And now I’m blogging. And it’s a beautiful day. My plan is to coax him off the coach (he’s really not that sick) and get the two of us outside to walk around the block … or something … outside.
I’m amazed at how uninspired I am to do anything. How did I ever get anything done when I was home with kids full-time? Well, I never let them watch movies like this, that’s for sure. I should be filled with guilt except I’m uninspired even to do that.
The child not pictured is inside, upstairs, huddled in his bed, too sick even to enjoy unlimited access to the computer. So we aren’t off to swim in a lake, as planned. If I don’t get another chance to use the wetsuit before the race on Sunday, well, so be it. I’ll swim on Sunday. The sun is shining, the sky is bright, the girls talked all the way home from school (and held hands), and the supper menu is enticing. It is based around the chicken stock I’ve been brewing all day: hot and sour soup for those of us so inclined, and miso for everyone else, with pasta salad on the side.
re writing: The last story didn’t get finished today, but it got continued, and that was all I could ask of my weary brain. I’ve noticed myself tending to muck around on these last few writing days and suddenly gain inspiration with seventeen minutes left on the clock (avoidance is not my usual style, but with this story I’ve begun to appreciate the kick-in-the-pants of working under pressure).
There’s a picture in my head made up of words in the shape of a clock, or a circle. The words are ones I associate with myself, with who I am. This is the post I planned to write awhile ago, and it has been marinating ever since. I keep thinking the ideas will come together more coherently, but instead it remains the same as it was when I first came across the thought: a circular list of words. Some are big–bigger than I am–and apply only in a theoretical sense. I haven’t accomplished enough to claim some of them, but they’re not end-point words; rather, they’re associative, hopeful.
Writer. Mother. Chef. Photographer. Doula. Athlete. Friend. Partner. Family-member. Musician. Designer. Organizer.
I could add in a word related to doing laundry and dishes, but I don’t want to. I choose not to.
These words represent the ways that I use my time. Everything I’ve listed gives me pleasure or is something I want to pursue further.
(Which is why the chores get left off the list; yes, I use my time to do a lot of chores, but they’re not essential to who I am. Or are they? Probably they are. Probably they’ve taught me all kinds of good things about patience and persistence and the necessity and and meditative nature of routine. But I’d still let someone else take over the bulk of them, at least half the time, without blinking an eye.)
Thinking about these words gives me a way to consider what I’m doing, and what I would like to be doing. Which words are more ascendant within me right now? Or this week? Or this year? Or long-term? I have a lot of energy, now that I’m sleeping through the night, and when I set my mind to a task or a goal, I home in on it with laser-beam eyeballs and a focus that frightens me just a little bit sometimes. My question right now, having sent off my manuscript, and balancing on the cusp of who-knows-what, is where should I direct this focus? I am filled with ideas, and long-term plans and plots, but everything scatters like dust without concrete goals. Without placement.
The portrait project is a good example of something that has drifted, that, finished, feels a bit purposeless. I like a solid goal. I appreciated the challenge of taking a portrait every day, and appreciated everything I learned over the year. But. There it ends, a series of photographs, some quite lovely, some I’m happy never to see again, without any kind of summing up, without a home. What, I wonder, was the meaning of that? Could it add up to something other than the disconnected list that it is?
In other news, my eye woes are mending. Not altogether healed, but improved. In fact, as soon as the gigantic pustules started shrinking–and even while they remained quite large and ugly-looking–I discovered an instant upswing in my confidence. The confidence was (and may very well still be) entirely out of proportion to the size of the pustules; the confidence relates, quite simply, to how bad it was before. Simple comparison. As long as it is better than it was, I am flying, I’m on top of the world, brimming with confidence. Plus, I have peripheral vision again, which is handy and quite useful.